Business Irish

Saturday 14 December 2019

Noonan sticks boot into ECB leakers

Queen Elizabeth speaks with President Michael D Higgins during the state banquet.
Queen Elizabeth speaks with President Michael D Higgins during the state banquet.
Queen Elizabeth speaks at the state banquet

Nick Webb

Things are about to get even more frosty between Finance Minister Michael Noonan and the faceless eurocrats running the European Central Bank (ECB).

"There was a story through the markets, probably generated by middle management at the European Central Bank, that if we liquidated IBRC, there would be a black hole to the tune of 6, or 7 or €8bn left behind. So the fact that we were able to fast-track the liquidation has taken that fear out of the markets. There's no residual black hole there now," he said. Miaaow.

"The same consideration applies to where we're dealing with Nama. It's not so much realising the value of the asset that is the motivating force. The motivating force is to show that there's no residual black hole going to come from Nama, and that Nama will show a profit," Noonan told the guests at the Sunday Independent Business forum last week.

The Sindo Business Forum drew some real heavy-hitters down to the Dublin Docklands. Blanchardstown shopping centre owner and Green REIT chairman Stephen Vernon was there.

While the likes of Dundrum shopping centre may be coming on the block, Blanchardstown definitely isn't up for sale, he told me. He's planning to make it way, way bigger.

Vernon also buttonholed Noonan after the speeches to discuss the future role for Nama.

He wanted to know whether the agency would be turned into a mega-development company or else be shut down super-fast a la Anglo. Noonan is reviewing Nama, he said.

The beano down in the uber-slick Marker Hotel was also attended by Iseq-listed Kenmare Resources boss Michael Carvill, Permanent TSB chief executive Jeremy Masding, Investec Ireland boss Michael Cullen, FAI head John Delaney, Davy Stockbrokers corporate finance whizz Eugenee Mulhern and Brown Thomas chief Stephen Sealey.

The bankers dine with the Queen

The bankers continue to get all of the best invitations. Former AIB and Anglo Irish Bank director Gary Kennedy was one of the guests at the state banquet thrown by the Queen for Michael D at Windsor Castle last week.

"It was Gary," his equerry told me last week. "He is chairman of Greencore, a leading company in Britain and Ireland." Greencore, of course, makes most of the sandwiches for Marks & Spencer.

Although, guests at the banquet supped on something more substantial than a falafel and spinach wrap.

Former AIB chairman and current Goldman Sachs International chairman Peter Sutherland also tucked in to the feast of halibut, tornadoes of Windsor estate beef and vanilla ice-cream bombe with Balmoral redcurrant centre.

But Gary and Suds weren't the only ones plucked from the business world by the diplomatic corps to represent Ireland at the do.

Billionaire Martin Naughton, founder of Ireland's biggest and most successful manufacturer Glen Dimplex, was also there with his wife.

RTE director general Noel Curran and his wife, and former Eurovision winner Eimear Quinn were also on the guest list, as was Mayo construction tycoon Ray O'Rourke.

O Riordan nixers make a lot of sense for Arthur Cox

ARTHUR Cox, the country's biggest law firm, is big for a reason. Even its partners' nixers make a lot of sense. Former managing partner Padraig O Riordain, below – the guy who advised Brian Lenihan on the night of the infamous bank guarantee – is on the board of Patrick Kennedy's Paddy Power Bookmakers. In fact, they live within spitting distance of each other in the heart of Dublin 6.

O Riordain, gets a perfectly pleasant €90,000 for his time. But his firm Arthur Cox does even better. Last year, Arthur Cox bagged fees of €318,894 from Paddy Power on top of €659,418 the previous year. This related to "legal and taxation advice received from Arthur Cox", according to Paddy Power.

Arthur Cox also does well out of another business connected to O Riordain. Semi-state Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) paid close to €1.4m to Arthur Cox in 2012, according to figures that I was able to ferret out of the airport company. O Riordain was appointed as €31,500-per-year chairman to Dublin Airport Authority by Fine Gael Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar in January 2012.

O Riordain is also a board member of Shane Reihill's listed investment outfit TVC Holdings. Guess who is its legal adviser? Yep, Arthur Cox. The law firm earned €159,000 in fees from TVC Holdings over the past two years.

Both Paddy Power and TVC mulled over O Riordain's independence as a director in light of these fees. But they both decided that the fees weren't big enough to pose a potential conflict of interest for O Riordain. Given that Arthur Cox had managed to work for Bank of Ireland, big property developers and the Department of Finance at the time of the crash, potential conflicts of interest are something they are well used to managing.

Nama's Daly gets Rwanda role

NAMA chairman Frank Daly had plenty on his mind last week, with revelations by Finance Minister Michael Noonan that he was conducting a major review of the State property behemoth.

There was also the bombshell that top Nama portfolio manager Donal Kelleher was jumping ship to join the new Irish residential property buyout fund, leading to real fears that the taxpayer was going to be disadvantaged as he takes his wealth of expertise over to the private sector.

But while these are teeth-gritting moments for the Nama chairman, it is very different to Daly's other role. He's Rwanda's man in Ireland.

"I was asked to become Honorary Consul for Rwanda in Ireland in 2010 following my retirement from the Revenue. The original connection with the country arose during my time in Revenue when we provided some training services to people from the Revenue Commissioners in Rwanda who came here to see how we managed our operations," Daly said last week.

"Of course, this week brings back the horrors of what happened 20 years ago and I attended a special service this week here in Dublin to mark the occasion. I have been very impressed with how the country has faced up to that situation and acknowledged the evil of what happened," he said.

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